Long-running FTA negotiations with the EU continue to be difficult, however. ‘The EU needs to be more flexible on some points,’ said Al-Hinai. ‘They are always bringing new issues [to the table].’ Areas of disagreement include rules of origin, investment regulation, government procurement and goods to be liberalised.

GCC states are considering new taxes in response to diminishing customs duties and are leaning towards introducing value-added tax (VAT). A study on the scheme will be completed by year-end.

‘I can’t say when VAT would apply, but it won’t be long if it’s agreed at the [next] GCC summit,’ said Al-Hinai.

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